The quaint horse-drawn carriages trotting around Temple Square are wreaking havoc with downtown Salt Lake City traffic, and Salt Lake Mayor Palmer DePaulis said Tuesday he wants to regulate what has become a downtown tradition.
Three carriage companies with a total of 18 vehicles are currently licensed in the city, City Treasurer Buzz Hunt told the mayor. Competition for fares among the companies is fierce, he said."A considerable amount of mutual mistrust" between the companies has created a horse race for customers, Hunt said, especially during the carriers' holiday peak season.
"We got into the holiday season and it seemed like all hell broke loose," Hunt said.
Slow-moving horse-drawn carriages created frequent traffic congestion and often traffic accidents, Hunt said. Police officers have videotaped traffic violations committed by carriage drivers.
"One problem we have is with drivers wearing headphones and not paying attention to traffic conditions," he said.
What's more, carriage companies complained about competitive tactics among their colleagues, many of whom vie for fares while parked near Temple Square and in other downtown areas.
"Our immediate problem is excessive competition and congestion," Hunt said. While three horse-drawn carriage companies have put more than a dozen horses on Salt Lake streets, the problems associated with the tradition aren't just restricted to four-legged driven transportation.
"I might mention, I just got a call from a guy who wants to start a rickshaw company. This thing won't go away soon," said Assistant City Attorney Larry Spendlove.
DePaulis endorsed a proposed ordinance brought to him by Hunt "limiting competition" among companies and calling for safety and animal inspections.
Under the draft ordinance, the city could regulate expansion of existing companies and the creation of new ones. A $100 license fee would be levied on companies as well as a fee for individual carriages.
Carriages would display license plates and inspection stickers, and drivers must have chauffeurs' licenses. The city's animal control division would regulate the service, under the draft ordinance.
Hunt also proposed selling a concession with safety language written into a contract to a single carriage company as a means of limiting competition.